Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Amy L Cohn, Suzy Schmidt
Illustrator:  David Johnson 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic, 2002   ISBN: 0590935666

“SEE THAT TALL, TALL MAN…” Thus opens this unique biography of Abraham Lincoln — seemingly as tall as the grand man himself.

The tale begins with the comfortable chatty text taking us to a cold Kentucky morning in 1809 where newly born baby Abe Lincoln lies on a cornhusk mattress. Big sister Sarah watches over him, waiting for him to grow, which of course he does. “Longshanks, they called him, and all his life his knees and nose got a little too friendly every time he sat down.” Then Abe is seven and the family has moved to a three-walled house, just “a roaring fire between them, the panther, the wolf, and the bear.” He swings an axe and fells trees for hour after hour. There is so much work to do that Abe is not able to go to  school, though he does learn to read and loves it.

One day eighteen year old Abe sees “men, women and children sold like cattle from one owner to another.” The sight has a profound effect on the young man, and it is an image that he never forgets.

Soon Abe marries, becomes a lawyer and eventually he becomes the president of the United States, taking his humble-yet-strong prosaic truths with him. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he believes as the Civil War looms on the horizon. Refusing to take back his Emancipation Declaration he states with his characteristic wit, “I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards.”

Told in casual, conversational tones, we find ourselves smiling again and again at a young and poor Abe who spends many a night in front of a dying fire. A beloved book in hand he declares, “My friend's the one who has a book I ain't read yet…”

This tall rectangle of a book blends energetically engaging watercolors with a passionate voice—shared as if between old friends in front of a roaring fire. Authors Amy L. Cohn and Suzy Schmidt, and illustrator David A. Johnson have created a must-have title that every student should own.